Lummi’s seven seniors had never been to a state basketball tournament, yet that was anything but obvious.
Jitters? No way.
The Blackhawks (25-0) seemed as poised as they could be over the final three quarters of their 54-41 win over Entiat (22-2) in the opening round of the Class 1B Hardwood Classic before a huge throng of Lummi fans on Thursday, March 5, at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
Perhaps the only pressure the Blackhawks — who credited all their state football playoff experience for their preparation — felt was to perform well for the hundreds of Lummi Reservation fans who came to erupt early and often for their unbeaten boys.
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“It really meant a lot, seeing everybody here,” said Lummi point guard Dean Williams. “Be sure to thank them for us.”
Sophomore Trazil Lane, the only non-senior in Lummi’s eight-man first-half rotation, turned in a superb effort under pressure to lead Lummi into the state semifinals on Friday, March 6, at 7:15 p.m. against Seattle Lutheran (21-6), a 62-48 loser to the Blackhawks on Feb. 19.
The Saints battered Cusick 58-36 and looked quick, strong and good enough to give Lummi a real tussle.
Entiat, likewise, looked quick enough to endanger Lummi’s unbeaten record, especially as the Blackhawks were whistled for six fouls while taking a 13-9 first-quarter lead.
Lane had one basket, one rebound and one block along with two fouls in the opening quarter. He came on strong to finish with 10 for 13 shooting and turned in game highs of 20 points, 14 rebounds (with six on the offensive boards), three blocks and was called for only one more foul.
“We (quickly) made the adjustment to the style of the referees,” said Lummi coach Jerome Toby, indicating how his team recovered so quickly and was called for only nine fouls over the final three quarters. “We just played a little smarter. We knew we could play without our transition game. We just had to execute a half-court set.”
When someone praised Toby for doing an effective coaching job, he just grinned and said, “The boys all delivered so well. They’re the ones who make me look like a good coach.”
That’s so true when you’ve got a shooter like Austin Brockie, who nailed his first four shots — three of them 3s — to help Lummi wind up with its biggest first-half lead at 33-21 just before the buzzer. Point guard Williams made five first-half steal to provide momentum and shooting opportunities for Brockie and Lane.
Brockie, who finished with 15 points, couldn’t help but talk about Lane’s excellence.
“Trazil is just a really humble guy,” Brockie said, knowing Trazil isn’t one to boast about himself.
Even though Lummi built leads of up to 51-31 early in the fourth quarter, Kavarez Lane acknowledged the one thing the Blackhawks didn’t do consistently well — shoot.
“We didn’t really play our game. We missed too many easy shots,” he said.
That, indeed, was true except for Lummi’s 9 for 15 second-quarter accuracy when Trazil Lane went 4 for 4. The Blackhawks finished 22 for 53 from the field, but Toby’s coaching the Blackshawks to an effective deliberate style helped limit Lummi’s turnover total to only seven.
Toby was especially proud that his reserves turned in their top overall effort. Sixth man Willie Jones added six points, lots of muscle and solid defense, while starter Jacob Roberts gave it everything he had but was plagued by foul trouble with four in a 12-minute stint.
Junior guard Jason James went without a turnover in a seven-minute stint, while fellow reserves Adam Lawrence, sophomore John Ballew and Alex Jefferson played quality second-half minutes.
In fact, some of Lummi’s loudest cheers — both from the fans and the bench — came when Jefferson hit a nothing-but-net outside shot on a pass from Brockie for a 49-31 advantage early in the fourth quarter.
“We like to look for (to pass to) those guys (the subs),” Williams said. “The whole crowd really went wild for Alex.”
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in all our guys,” said Toby, explaining why he wasn’t worried about using reserves in key situations. “All are guys are capable of contributing and everyone delivered.”
Brockie acknowledged that the team may have, indeed, been a bit in awe of the arena setting.
“We’ve never played in an environment like this, with all the other teams wanting to see us,” he said.
Toby said he came in thinking Lummi’s record was 25-0, but the state program and list of scores showed 24-0. But his team took care of that nicely, he said with a smile.